A local coalition created to fight the drug epidemic in Clark County spoke with business leaders Wednesday about its role in the public health crisis.
The Clark County Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Support Coalition held a forum to make business leaders aware of ongoing efforts in the community to create drug free workforce policies for local companies, as well as other policies to help employees seek treatment, said coalition member Kristina Downing of Express Employment Services.
Several business leaders signed a pledge to support the coalition.
“We have a role to play as employers,” Downing said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to affect peoples’ lives. If we do nothing more than educate and maybe refer (to other services), we can be the start of turning this tide.”
The majority of the 79 drug deaths in Clark County last year involved heroin and illicit fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. There have been 77 suspected drug deaths this year, including 51 confirmed drug deaths, according to the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
As of Monday, local law enforcement has responded to 720 calls for overdoses, including 559 by the Springfield Police Division and 161 by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Last year, local law enforcement agencies responded to 493 overdoses.
About 70 percent of people abusing illicit drugs are employed, according to the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Drug abuse and addiction costs employers about $81 billion annually, according to the council.
Employees in active addiction miss 10 work days for every one day missed by other employees and are only about two-thirds as productive as other employees, McKinley Hall CEO Wendy Doolittle said.
Companies who take action through drug testing, education and second chance programs can improve morale, decrease workplace accidents, reduce employee thefts and turnover and increase productivity, she said.
The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Champaign Counties was one of 17 Ohio communities recently selected to participate in the Working Partners Drug-Free Workforce Community Initiative.
The board received a $20,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Recovery Services to kick-start the program, said Tracey Stute, director of treatment, prevention and support for the recovery board. It will assist employers in creating drug-free policies, helping employees in need seek treatment and create second chance approaches, if applicable.
Five companies participated in drug-free workforce technical assistance training this week, Stute said. Another round of training will be available for five more companies later this year.
“The policies can affect the needs of your company,” Stute said. “It may be different for someone in manufacturing. That’s where policies can support practices.”
The coalition is planning four more forums this year with different groups, including faith leaders, schools and the general public.
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR
About this series: Springfield’s Opioid War
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s opioid epidemic and what local officials are doing to solve the problem.
BY THE NUMBERS
77: Suspected drug overdose deaths through June 20.
51: Confirmed drug overdose deaths through June 20.
79: Drug overdose deaths in 2016.